The Fresh Loaf

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Tartine: am I doing it wrong?

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Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

Tartine: am I doing it wrong?

I've been following the Tartine method for many months, with reasonable results. But always looking to improve.

Another thread here (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/34954/clarification-my-starter-feeding-process) makes me wonder if I my understanding of the Tartine method is correct... specifically:

Chad Robertson suggests feeding the starter with equal "amounts" of water and 50/50 white/wheat flour. It's not indicated whether "equal amount" means equal by weight or by volume. I have been using equal volume (water and flour), giving a very wet starter.

Do you think Chad means equal-by-weight (i.e. 100% hydration) or equal-by-volume (i.e. about 125% hydration)?

Thanks in advance for your opinion

Les

Skibum's picture
Skibum

. . . he means equal amounts by weight. All the baking books I have spec the formulas in weight by grams or ounces.  This is normal.  b

MANNA's picture
MANNA

Chad means by weight.

BurntMyFingers's picture
BurntMyFingers

As you've found, water is much heavier than flour. Other typical baking components are lighter or heavier, making volume measurements pretty irrelevant for baking.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

166% hydration starter for a Tartine boule where volume is used forbith  flour and water to get a liquid starter that is fresh and young and imparts little sour?  Is this not the case?

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

@dabrownman it was your comment on the other thread that got me wondering... 

Unfortunately Chad Robertson was a little sloppy in specifying his starter feeding regimen. You are under the impression he's proposing a wet starter, but all the other respondents to my question are suggesting more dry.

So we're left to speculate...

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

I don't have his book but there are so many Fresh Lofians having the same problems with his starter regamine I just assumed that he specified a 166% hydrations starter since they were all doing the same thing - like you were.  My C of water weighs 238 g and the white flour 142 g.  Our advice to all of  them to fix theor problem was always the same - add more water and thicken the starter up by using equal weight of flor and water for feeding. 

Still tossing all the 'spent fuel' as Ken Forkish calls it, feeding often at room temperature and using the levain when it is fresh like Chad does,  is the method that promotes yeast as much as possible over Labs and a less sour bread should result.

MANNA's picture
MANNA

I followed Chads starter from his book. I got a very active starter that I fed 1:1:1 flour/ water/ culture by weight every 24 hours. I have struggled with getting my bread sour at all. It was a great levain just not sour at all. I once left a bread to final proof for 24 hours and baked that flat overrisen brick and still not even a hint of sour. Then I did the detmolder process out of bread by hammelman and got some sour in my bread by building my levain differently. Another thing is when you make Chads basic recipe he doesnt give an overall dough. So, you have the recipe with 200g of levain and a dough with 75% hydration. Does the final dough have to be 75% hydrated or as the book says for a 1000g loaf you add 750g water and then the levain giving it another 100g of water? I learned alot from Chads book. It was a great starting point. There is always more to learn.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

wet or not so wet.  so not to worry.  Rising indicators with the wet one are different because it can't trap gas like a thicker starter.  I tend to go by my nose...  you also don't have to add any great amounts of fresh flour and water to the starter.  The basic trick is just to leave it alone.  An occasional stir or swirl depending on the thickness of the starter will help distribute the food but the flour will separate out onto the bottom and the water to the top until it gets enough activity to mix itself.

With wet starters, just park them in a warm spot between 75° and 78°F  (warmer 80°- 85°F the first day) and they usually come around with a yeasty beer smell and the following stronger alcohol smells.  Give them a tablespoon of fresh flour per day and enough water to just cover up the flour.  You can watch the liquid darken as it ages.  Too much feeding is a big beginner mistake and a waste of flour.  The starter has to follow a process and to be honest, the less you do fooling with it, the better. 

Once fermentation is happening and making alcoholic by-products, remove a 15g portion and give that 15g a good feeding (I like a one to ten ratio, 10 each water, flour)  (dilution) to test the starter at 100% hydration and give it a day at 75°F, mark the level and watch the dough rise and fall. (It often rises twice if left alone) the first rise is the one you want to watch carefully and time.  Will be anywhere from 6 to 16 hrs. depending on how much yeast has developed in the starter. (If it doesn't rise in a 24 hr period, dump the test, it wasn't ready yet and keep watching the main culture for fermentation, eager beaver!)  Typical with a test on gluten flours is that nothing happens the first 4 hrs then it slowly starts to rise increasing rapidly after a few hrs. Once it falls down it can be reduced and fed more flour, and feed enough flour to keep the starter alive and healthy.  This is a major changing point; the starter culture is now loaded with yeast and will now consume more flour.   Check then on maintenance schedules to find the one that suits your situation.     

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

@Mini Oven, that's good insight... that wet or stiff starter doesn't make a huge diff, and that the rising indicators are different. This confirms my observations over the past couple of days, since I asked the original question.

@MANNA, I'll check into the detmold process, since I too would like more sour flavour. I think it's a small mistake in the Tartine book calculation of hydration. If you factor in the levain it's 1100 g flour and 850 g water, giving 77% hydration, not 75%.

What's really eluding me (this is why I was asking about the starter hydration) is achieving the large holes that are depicted in Tartine. At 77% hydration, and with long fermentation (8 hours room temp/cool day, 12 hours refrigerated), I'm not getting those big holes. I'm pretty sure my shaping is OK.

MANNA's picture
MANNA

To get the big holes you need to handle the dough gently limiting the amount of degassing you do. I was able to get nice holes but after awhile was happier with a tighter crumb. It worked out better for sandwiches and stuff.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

a degenerative process.  it starts out fresh, gets worked for its optimum qualities and then slowly falls apart.  Gas is made in the process and eventually the dough can no longer hold the gas and lets it escape.  Somewhere along the timeline between gas trapping and gas escaping, the loaf gets folded shaped and baked.  You have to decide when the opportune time is for baking to get the qualities you want.  If you knock out the gas too close to the escaping time, no rise or big bubbles.  Bake too soon, not enough gas to expand and trap steam getting a dense crumb.  Bubbles, gas trapping determines the crumb.

Observe your dough, cut into it and look at the bubbles forming. (or look thru the container)  Bubbles are round early on and as the dough weakens, irregular bubbles as they break into one another.  Look at the crumb shots of finished dough as well, look between the larger bubbles.  What do you see?  Play with a sharp knife and small pieces of dough cutting to watch bubble formation as time goes on.  This may give you some clues. 

Les Nightingill's picture
Les Nightingill

That the story of my life, Mini Oven.... "starts out fresh, gets worked for its optimum qualities and then slowly falls apart".

That's a good way to view the fermentation process. How long do you think the "opportune time" window is put the loaf in the oven?

Looking at a video on Ken Forkish's website the other day, he says "... this loaf should probably be proofed for another 5-10 minutes". My ability to discern optimum proofing is definitely poor. I think I can determine within an hour or so, maybe, but not within 10 minutes.

Thanks for your insight and suggestions.

Les

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

after taking in other information like how the dough feels and how long it was already been rising, formula, dough temp, room temp and his experience in such matters.   It also makes a difference whether the loaf goes into a hot or cold oven.

There is an art to feeling dough, I like to press my whole hand against it, rock it gently if I can.  If a lot of resistance is felt, I may poke it but generally, it means there is not much gas inside the loaf.   There is a certain amount of sponginess I look for and I will inspect the surface of the dough to look for signs of deterioration.